A Part of My Story: The Breakdown

My stomach hurt, my neck was constantly stiff, I was exhausted all the time. The weight of the world, at least my world, was on my shoulders. I was trying to finish Grad School, my job kept me occupied nights, weekends, and holidays, and my wife and I had a small child that was just a year old. I was trying to make a career, a life, a future for my family, but it was so hard and so strained and full of pressure. I was drowning under all of the responsibility. I kind of bottomed out emotionally.

For some reason, several months before, I had signed up to be a part of a training as a Challenge Course facilitator. Since this training was being done on the campus where I worked I got to spend a week being paid to be outside, to use my body, to work as a team with people, to challenge myself in ways that were different for me.  In a way that only God could orchestrate, even though I had signed up months before, the training occurred when I was at my lowest point.

Throughout that week, through God’s grace and all of the finer qualities of the training, my load began to lighten and I was given space to breathe, to think, to pray, and to listen. Christ was there waiting for me. What he wanted to tell me was this, “You have tried to manage your life on your own, why don’t you consider putting me on the throne of your life. Why don’t you let me run things for a change? Do you understand what is possible if you truly trusted me for everything?

Image result for end of the rope

I can’t remember one moment or one spiritual experience that revealed this to me. It was more like walking through a darkened corridor, like at a theater or stadium, that opens up to a bright, awe inspiring, and dynamic setting and experience. Everything was different because Christ was illuminating everything around me. All things were dripping with his presence, warmth, and love. All I knew was I had found what I was looking for and it was like I was putting on glasses for the first time and could see clearly. Christ had broken through my darkness and depression and had even used that darkness to make me reach out to Him in my desperation.

I had replaced myself from the throne of my life and placed Christ there. I had never felt so free. Everything changed from that moment. It all happened so easy yet seemed like a long, winding journey.

A Part of My Story: Taking The Disabled To Church

When I was in college, I used to work at a facility for the mentally handicapped. I often worked on the weekends and one of my favorite duties was taking a group of the residents to church. It was a small Baptist church where our little gaggle of adults almost made up a third of the congregation.

I loved these times because it taught me quite a bit about what Christ intended his church to be about. Let me explain:

  • Acceptance – This little church embraced these 10-15 mentally handicapped adults as part of their family. Our group wasn’t stuck in some corner somewhere so that most of the congregation could steer clear of us. No, we were front and center. The church members knew our people and considered them friends, not charity cases.

Survey: Church Congregations More Racially Diverse, Open to Homosexual Members | TGC | The ...

  • Praise and worship – I don’t usually connect much with worship music and singing but I always had such a good time singing with my challenged friends. They knew how to worship. Nothing held them back. They swayed, they belted the songs out, and legitimately were enjoying themselves. It was authentic, in the truest sense. It was joyful, unlike any kind of joyful you have ever experienced in church.
  • An image of heaven – One Sunday morning, I looked around me and just took in the scene of my friends singing and worshiping and thought, “this is probably what heaven will look like. People of all states, colors, sizes, and ability praising our God.” I came to the realization that heaven won’t have the homogenized, cookie cutter feel of most our churches. Heaven will be more like a feast where the invitations were sent far and wide and in every neighborhood. Every race, color, mental capacity, social class, and ability will be represented and we will gladly join with each other in worship and praise.

The images and remembrances of these times have stuck with me, even 20 years later. Since then, I have had a soft spot for those in church who don’t fit our expectations, or cause a disruptions or two, or lack proper decorum. If the church isn’t for these people, then who is it for?